Category: Kenneth Song

Text Messaging and Cell Phones Has Created a Generation of Pussies

Having had the good fortune to travel all around the world, I am always reminded in ways both obvious and subtle how similar people are from place to place. While we too often choose to focus on our surface differences, most people that have actually experienced different types of people and cultures up close and personal will agree that below the surface, we are basically driven by the same motivations.

That established, I am not willing to go so far as to say we are all the same and that stereotypes are wrong. Because as much as I am diametrically opposed to stereotyping based on size, shape or color, I am forming a hypothesis that seems to grow stronger every day that there is a criteria that can fairly accurately predict how an entire group of people will act: access to text messengers and cell phones during adolescence.

Something very significant happened when I was in school, as AOL’s Instant Messenger eclipsed house parties and frat parties in popularity as the place for college kids to hang out. For the first time, it was possible to get laid without ever having to muster up the courage to talk to a girl. Guy is bored at 2am on a Saturday morning and logs into AOL. Girl from his history class, who lives two dorms over, is equally as bored and chatting with her friends back home. Guy messages girl with the most impersonal of ask outs: “what are you doing?”…to which she replies, “nothing.” “Cool.” “We should, like, watch a movie or something”…and so it goes.

It has only gotten easier from there. Now, kids in the single digits have cell phones. This means something very significant: even though computer-based chat messengers are pretty much extinct, guys today under the age of, say 25 or so, have never once had to speak to the father of the girl they were chasing. I’m not sure about any of you, but I look back on the first few times calling my high school crush and praying like hell she would answer the phone (specifically and intentionally timing the calls at the exact time I thought her father would still be at work)–only to have a deep male voice greet me on the other end–as some of the events that helped me develop into a man. “Hello Mr. (silly readers, you aren’t getting a name out of me!), this is Steve Klimek calling. Is (pretty, tall girl) home…may I speak with her?” As I was saying this, I remember looking in the mirror and seeing the most pained expression on my face, as though the receiver was actually pulling the teeth out of my gums. And if her older brother answered? Even worse, because I knew that he actually could potentially kick my ass if he felt like it.

I know it sounds like I’m making this into a joke, and to some extent I am. But I believe that the technological revolution of chat messengers and cell phones has deprived young people of actually developing the confidence and skill set to speak with purpose–it has allowed them to stay within the confines of their comfort zones and still achieve things (such as getting laid) that previously required at least a slight foray outside of it. It is funny looking back on those awkward middle- and high school phone calls, but I can’t underestimate the impact those 10-second conversations had on my ability to handle personal and professional social situations as an adult, particularly as they required me to venture into unfamiliar situations and surroundings.

I’m not preaching, either. Believe me, if I would have had access to a direct phone number of my crushes (actually, one of my high school girlfriends had her own line, which at the time was like a gift from heaven), and the ability to chat rather than actually have to speak to them with a cracking, stuttering voice, I would have taken full advantage. Unfortunately, I had to go through those awkward conversations the hard way, but in hindsight, I’m glad I did. The same goes for flirting–it’s a lot easier nowadays to make those provocative comments complimenting some physical feature of a girl, fully intended to be a hook into something more, via text message than having to actually look her in the eye and get the words to come out. After all, if she doesn’t reply in 60 seconds or so, you can forever save face and be bailed out by the follow-up “LOL, just playing” text.

I believe that you can see the impact of this all over pop culture. Today’s generation of athletes, or the AAU generation as I call them, often doesn’t seem capable of even doing everyday chores such as grocery shopping by themselves. They can jump through the roof and squat-thrust a million pounds, but they can’t make a doctor’s appointment. This is because as a result of the access to mobile technology they have had since childhood, they have had grown-up leeches lining up to wipe the sweat off their ass since age 9 in hopes of “access” down the road. Michael Jordan is the greatest of them all, and he still had to do some things on his own as a young adult before Nike’s Air Jordan line made him a global phenomenon. It is evident in our celebrities as well–just look at the vastly different behavior of a young Usher 15 years ago as compared to his own personal protege, the obnoxious and bumbling Justin Bieber today. That’s not to say that yesterday’s celebrities didn’t act like jerks at times also, but I think there is a difference between acting like a jerk because a) you can; b) it is fun; or c) it helps your image, rather than doing so simply because you are incapable of handling social situations thrown at you.

One thing I am sure of is that if I ever find myself interviewing people younger than me to work on anything important, one of my criteria will be to make sure that they have, at some point in their lives, actually approached a member of the opposite sex (or same sex if they swing that way, no discriminating here), and spoken (with their voice, not through an electronic messenger) to introduce themselves. Bonus points if they have been horribly rejected. And even better yet if they have had to speak with that love interest’s father on the other end of the phone. A simple criteria, sure, but in my humble opinion, a significant indicator of one’s ability to adapt and adjust to the varied social situations that life outside of the comfort zone will throw at you.


Now It’s Time for Twice as Many of Us to Attend the NYC Marathon, Fourth of July Fireworks and All Public Celebrations

In the 48-or-so hours since the Boston Marathon bombings, I’ve made a point to stay in public places to overhear the inevitable chatter the tragedy has stirred up (this article is being written from the Terminal 2 lobby at San Francisco International Airport). I figured this would be a particularly good place, given the number of direct flights arriving from Boston and the news crews I can see about 50 feet ahead of me, cameras ready to catch people who may have been at the marathon.

While it makes sense that people are talking, I have observed complete polarity in terms of the future effect events like this will have on people’s day-to-day lives. Some are adamant that the event will come back stronger than ever, and if they participated or attended, they wouldn’t miss it for the world again next year. Others, however, seem to be taking a very clear stance that the world is just nuts and they will think twice before attending any event of this magnitude in the future.

If any of you find yourselves leaning towards the second category, I’m writing this article in hopes of bringing you back to the first.

That someone would do something like place a bomb next to a trash can with the intention of killing innocent people at random is reprehensible. I’m pretty sure any of you reading this are fully in accord with that. But by letting such an tragedy deter you from pursuing something you would otherwise enjoy, people who take this approach are simply reaffirming the responsible party’s intention of not only killing people, but creating lasting fear and paranoia, which I would argue is just as toxic in the long-run.

The Marathon bombing was truly tragic, and everyone’s thoughts and prayers should go out for the three fatalities and 176 people injured in the blast. Scary stuff? Absolutely. But let’s shed some perspective on it. Of 23,000-plus runners and an estimated 500,000 attendees, perhaps we were fortunate that there were only those three fatalities and 176 injuries. By comparison, the city of Boston alone has averaged about 10 traffic fatalities for every 100,000 residents each year over the past two decades or so, which projects out to about 52 for the same amount of people who attended the Marathon. That breaks down to one every week. Add in the suburban area, and pedestrian and bicycle fatalities, and we’re probably talking about a total death and injury count that is comparable to what happened at the Boston Marathon on a weekly basis–just by people going about their daily business to-and-from work or activities.

Of course, the often-sensationalized media coverage also doesn’t help deter the spread of this paranoia and fear that the culprits intended. Watching the news last night, I was saddened that the report about a 20-year-old who was identified by police as a “person of interest” because he was seen running from one of the bomb sites with a hand injury (which would make him just one of 176) had to specify that he was a Saudi national. It turns out that after police talked to to him, this “person of interest” was determined to be nothing more than a victim, but I can’t help but think about all of the people who heard that report and what they will think the next time they walk past a Middle Easterner on the street. I simply don’t see why the “journalist” couldn’t have just reported that police were talking to a person of interest, rather than specify his ethnicity or nationality, at least until there was any evidence that he was in fact involved. We only have to look back as far as Newtown to see that it isn’t just foreigners that commit acts of terror in this country.

My point in all of this is not to belittle the magnitude of tragedy that the 2013 Boston Marathon will forever be remembered for. Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old from China fulfilling her dream of pursuing her Master’s in the United States, Krystle Randle, a lively 29-year-old from the Boston area and 8-year-old Martin Richard all had promising lives ahead of them, and will be dearly missed. The 12 others who suffered amputations of some sort will also surely never forget Monday.

My point is also not to suggest that we should be afraid to drive or bike or walk to work. Accidents have and always will be a part of the cycle of life, and the reality is that no matter how careful or cautious we try to be, any of us could have our number called at any time.

My point is to demonstrate that by pursuing the things we love to do, participating in things like Boston’s Patriot Day and storied Marathon that are celebrations of the human spirit, even with the ever-present threat of life’s evils, we are at no greater risk than we are going about our everyday business. And more importantly, to emphasize that if we allow fear and paranoia to dictate the way we live our lives, we are allowing the people responsible to succeed in their mission far more emphatically than they have already. I didn’t have the honor of knowing any of them personally, but I would argue that Lingzi, Krystle and Martin would rather be remembered as heroes who died celebrating one of the more exciting days of their short lives rather than as symbols of the day we let the fear and paranoia stirred up by a few sick individuals triumph over the human spirit.

It is appropriate that we should all be in a state of mourning for the three beautiful people we lost on Monday, and send our thoughts and prayers to their families, friends and the other victims who will have to struggle the rest of their lives without an arm or a leg. But we should also be careful not to let the psychological impact that Monday’s bombing, and the sensationalized media coverage that has surrounded it, sap some of our spirit for celebrations of humanity. I can’t help but thinking back to childhood, growing up watching Mister Rogers, and remembering him talk about seeing scary things on the news:

My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.

Here’s to taking Mister Rogers’ advice and looking back on Monday as a story of heroes like Lingzi, Krystle and Martin, and helpers–the thousands who made sure that the tragedy wasn’t any worse–rather than a story of terrorists and victims. If we do that, then evil simply can’t win.


Costas’ Nationally-Televised Plea for Gun Control Reform was Well-Timed and Appropriate

When the Bill of Rights was drafted more than 200 years ago, the United States of America was a vastly different place than it is today. Back then, we were a small agricultural country, and the framers of the Constitution themselves were essentially farmers who had lived their lives up to that point amidst civil war. So they drafted the Second Amendment, granting us the right to bear arms within a “well regulated militia.”

This was designed to protect individuals from a government infringing upon their basic freedoms—mind you, a government that was not equipped with nuclear weapons and surveillance technology robust enough to monitor the personal actions of everyone from its own military chief on down through its illegal immigrants.

That same premise doesn’t exist today. We have an established government, and one that—whether you trust it or not in the era of Guantanamo Bays and “no fly” lists—will infringe upon your rights if it deems such necessary. Having a gun at home isn’t going to protect you from that.

Yet, powerful (and rich) organizations like the National Rifle Association keep brainwashing confused lemmings into believing this is a basic foundation of being an American—the right to bear arms—and fail to see that our lack of gun control is what has people around the world actually afraid to visit a place that we feel is the most “civilized” of societies.

This is a hot topic today especially, given the shocking news from the weekend about a 25-year-old, multimillionaire professional athlete in the midst of living his dream, gunning down the mother of his 3-month-old girl in front of his own mother before taking his own life. During a nationally-televised football game the following day, NBC commentator Bob Costas made a public endorsement for gun control by paraphrasing journalist Jason Whitlock’s column calling for the same. Here’s an excerpt:

“We’ve come to accept our insanity. We’d prefer to avoid seriously reflecting upon the absurdity of the prevailing notion that the second amendment somehow enhances our liberty rather than threatens it.

How many young people have to die senselessly? How many lives have to be ruined before we realize the right to bear arms doesn’t protect us from a government equipped with stealth bombers, predator drones, tanks and nuclear weapons?

Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.

In the coming days, Belcher’s actions will be analyzed through the lens of concussions and head injuries. Who knows? Maybe brain damage triggered his violent overreaction to a fight with his girlfriend. What I believe is, if he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.

That is the message I wish Chiefs players, professional athletes and all of us would focus on Sunday and moving forward. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.

But we won’t. We’ll watch Sunday’s game and comfort ourselves with the false belief we’re incapable of the wickedness that exploded inside Jovan Belcher Saturday morning.”

While it perhaps wasn’t the ideal venue for such a discussion, I respect Costas for doing so. It’s a message that people simply need to consider in context. Of course, this brought out the critics in full force, with the following being among the tweets that circulated after the Costas segment:

“Does Bob Costas know that people are murdered everyday by means other than gunshots? Removing guns will not stop psychos from killing people.”

“Yes, Bob Costas, guns are the problem. Nicole Brown Simpson would be alive today if OJ hadn’t shot her with that knife.”

For those in favor of simply ignoring any sort of historical context in advocating Second Amendment rights, I believe you may well be able to craft a good argument doing so. I just haven’t heard it yet. Instead, all I hear are the same old variations of the same old, ignorant view that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Such ignorance in an argument never ceases to amaze me. Nobody is saying that stricter gun control laws are going to prevent 100% of murders from happening in our society. It’s simply saying that without a gun sitting on the table next to someone in the midst of an emotional, heated argument, it’s much less likely that people would die as a result of fighting. There’s a difference between people fighting and people shooting one another. The arguments above are akin to saying that having laws and prisons are pointless because some crime still exists, or that traffic signals have no purpose because a few individuals run red lights anyway.

Humans were blessed with free will and a more independent spirit than any other animal, so there will always be people who choose to inflict evil on the world. But if you take away the easy means of inflicting the ultimate evil on another—murder—you make said evil much less likely to happen. If someone is really intent upon killing another, having to physically do it with one’s own hands is much more personal than having to pull a trigger at a distance. There are a lot of people, I’d argue, who are capable of squeezing their eyes shut and doing the ladder, but probably wouldn’t be able to do the former.

It’s easy for us to look at someone who committed murder and judge them as “evil”—we feel better about ourselves knowing that we are incapable of such atrocity, and that the individual we cast judgment upon must simply be a cold-blooded savage. But what about when you consider the possibility that Jovan Belcher was not really a “psycho”? When you talk to people who actually knew someone like Jovan Belcher for years, and learn that he was involved in his community, that he cared for friends and loved ones, that he was just like…us (!!), it makes me wonder how many murderers may have felt instant regret upon realizing the gravity of their actions. How many got caught up in a fit of rage and lost their head, acted strictly on emotional impulse….and happened to have a gun, with all of the instant gratification and suddenness that pulling a trigger provides, handy. Do a psycho lay down and kiss the body of the woman he killed after the fact, apologize to his own mother for his vile actions, and go out of his way to thank the men who helped him achieve his life’s dream while asking them to look after his soon-to-be orphaned daughter, as Belcher reportedly did? Or would a true psycho have just shot all of them?

Of course some murders would still happen in a world without handguns, as it did before guns were even invented. But I’d argue that a whole lot more, in the actual midst of inflicting harm upon someone with their hands, would possibly have come to their senses in those moments and nobody would have died. I’d argue that Jovan Belcher had no intention of killing himself when he woke up Saturday morning, but instead that he lost his head in a moment of rage, killed his girlfriend, and then felt no other choice than to take the easy way out rather than face up to the consequences of his actions. Without the gun, he would have been arrested for domestic violence—itself a vile crime—paid his punishment, sought out some professional help, and continued to live his life as hopefully a better and reformed man. And, oh yeah, his daughter would have a father.